Matt Driscoll

Matt Driscoll: Three lessons from three weeks on the job

Time flies when you’re writing three columns a week.

That’s exactly how I’ve been occupying myself lately. After spending my first week at The News Tribune figuring out important things like where the bathrooms are, the last two have been spent churning out words at a furious rate.

I’m hopeful a few of them have been decent, and as we move forward, that my columnist batting average only improves.

So what have I learned during my brief time on the job? I’m glad you asked ...

Don’t call Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson a Democrat: Because she’s not. And if you do call her a Democrat, as I did in my first week, she’ll explain exactly why she’s not one.

The auditor gig is bipartisan, of course, but for Anderson it’s a bigger issue than that. Flat out, she says she hates partisan politics. That makes two of us.

While Anderson — who previously served on the Tacoma City Council — admits to being “very sympathetic” to a some typically Democratic causes, she says the last time she had an official affiliation with the party was in 2002, when she served as a precinct committee officer.

These days? She’s decidedly not a Democrat.

“I will never run for a partisan office under a party banner,” she told me definitively. “If I run for a partisan office, it will be as an Independent.”

That’s a bold statement for a politician, considering the success rate of Independents at the ballot box.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering if Anderson will run for county executive next year, as many Democrats are hoping, she insists that’s not going to happen.

What are Anderson’s post-auditor plans? She has three years left on her second term, and under the county charter she could always run for a third. However, she tells me she’s undecided about the future and might opt to open a Quiznos.

I couldn’t tell if she was joking. After all, it wouldn’t be any crazier than running for office as an Independent.

People have funny ideas about equity: Earlier this week I wrote about the proposal that would see Tacoma lease all of Click’s infrastructure to a Kirkland company called Wave. It’s a 40-year lease, which for those playing at home, is an awfully long time.

My argument was straightforward: As the city decides what to do with Click — which, in its current business model is a massive money loser — all of Tacoma’s citizens must be taken into consideration. Access to the Internet has become a necessity of modern life, and currently more than a quarter of Tacoma’s homes have no access to it. We own the Click infrastructure, and we have to find a way to do better.

But as more than one reader was quick to note, citizens of Tacoma can simply head down to the library to jump online. That’s true, and it mirrored something a Tacoma Public Utilities Board member said this week.

As Monique Trudnowski pointed out during a study session unveiling the Click proposal, people can access free broadband Internet at Tacoma libraries and — during business hours — on the second floor of City Hall.

So what’s the fuss, right?

To me, that’s like telling people with no running water that all they have to do is head downtown — during business hours — to fill their cups from a spigot the city thoughtfully provides.

Not exactly equity.

The minimum wage question isn’t going away anytime soon: Last Sunday, I warned that the debate over a $15 minimum wage in Tacoma had already arrived. On Thursday, we got crystal-clear proof.

As we reported, a meeting of the Downtown Merchants Group got heated when concerned business owners faced off with two representatives from Tacoma’s 15 Now movement. The activists were invited, according to DMG President Judi Hyman, to help the group “better understand the reasoning and also to understand how to prepare” should the initiative become law.

You have to admire the 15 Now reps for having the courage to step into the business lion’s den. And you have to be discouraged by the City Council’s reluctance to take up the matter.

Any member of the council secretly hoping Olympia will solve the matter for us this session was surely disappointed when, on Wednesday, Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, canceled a meeting of the Commerce and Labor Committee he chairs. The tactic prevented a possible vote on a measure that would phase-in a new statewide $12 minimum wage.

Earlier this session the $12 minimum wage legislation passed out of the House on a party-line vote, but now — with Baumgartner’s power play — it’s effectively dead.

Or at least as dead as anything is in Olympia before the final buzzer sounds.

Which brings us back to Tacoma and the likelihood that voters, one way or another, will settle things for us this November.

Until then, expect more intense exchanges like the one we saw at the DMG meeting this week.

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